Digitizing Dan's: Stony Brook Seeks Support to Preserve Dan Rattiner's Archive
Earlier this year, Dan Rattiner made the donation of a lifetime to Stony Brook University — more specifically, the donation of his lifetime — gifting his personal archive of Dan’s Papers, which he founded 63 years ago.
With the physical archive now becoming available to the public as part of Stony Brook’s Special Collections, the university is calling upon the greater East End community to help fund the digitization and preservation of Rattiner’s eponymous life’s work.
“We are very excited to have Dan’s Papers as a part of Stony Brook University Libraries’ collections,” Jamie Saragossi, SBU Interim Associate Dean of Collection Strategy and Management, told Dan’s Papers in April when Rattiner’s gift was announced.
The Dan’s Papers archive includes far more than the publication known by that name today. The first “Dan’s Paper” was called The Montauk Pioneer. A 20-year-old Dan Rattiner published its first issue in July 1960 with the intention of promoting the eclectic village of Montauk to summer tourists.
As he introduced similarly local papers for various East End communities throughout the ’60s, it was clear that the publications needed an overarching name — a shorthand with which the receptionist could answer calls from readers and potential advertisers.
“Dan’s Papers” would become the umbrella term for a diverse family of papers including The East Hampton Summer Sun, The Southampton Summer Day, The Sag Harbor Pilot, The North Fork Free Enterprise, The Hampton Beach and The Hampton Exchange. The newspapers would eventually merge into the singular Dan’s Papers now distributed weekly across the entire East End.
Stony Brook intends to make this rich record of Hamptons and North Fork history — featuring news, commentary, cultural events and original art — freely accessible to readers both physically and digitally. According to Saragossi, “Digitizing these papers will allow researchers, former contributors and those featured in the pages of Dan’s Papers over the past 60 years to easily perform keyword searches and identify stories of interest, from casual reading to use in comprehensive scholarship.”
In order to enable the digitization and maintenance of the Dan’s Papers collection at Stony Brook University Libraries, which now comprises the most complete print run of Dan’s Papers held by a research library, the Dan Rattiner Special Collections Fund was created to garner support from loyal readers and generous community members. For an archive of this massive scale, SBU set a fundraising goal of $130,000.
“Stewardship of distinctive research collections is an ongoing, continuous process and long-term commitment,” said Kristen Nyitray, director of the University Libraries Special Collections and University Archives Division. “The overarching goal of the project is expanding the reach of Dan’s Papers from the Hamptons to the global research community. The aim of the campaign is to ensure that the physical newspapers and digital collection are available for current and future research use, and that requires funding not only to digitize the issues of Dan’s Papers that have been donated to the Stony Brook University Libraries, but also to house and preserve the physical copies in perpetuity.”
Rattiner and his wife, Christine Wasserstein, kicked off the campaign with a sizable donation, with other well-known East Enders following suit, including East Hampton Village Historian Hugh King, former NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and wife Rikki Klieman, and Schneps Media founder Victoria Schneps, who purchased Dan’s Papers in 2020.
At the time of writing, the campaign has received over $72,000 in donations, passing the halfway mark of $65K in the few months since fundraising began in August. But more support is needed to secure the funding to preserve this “important documentary source for the study of Long Island’s East End and beyond,” as SBU described it.
“I started by taking the first paper home once it was printed and kept doing it,” Rattiner shared of his collection’s genesis. “I hope that people will enjoy reading the publication. I think people will learn why so many have come out to the East End to settle this place because of its remarkable beaches, farmland, history and culture. It’s just such a beautiful place.”
To make a tax-deductible gift to the Dan Rattiner Special Collections Fund, visit sbugiving.com/danspapers. For more information about ways to support this crowdfunding campaign, contact [email protected]. And for inquiries about the archive and Stony Brook’s Special Collections, email [email protected].